The power of love, laughter and… persillade

I simply sear my scallops to a golden brown (about one minute on each side on medium to high heat) and then dump my persillade on top. I also like to add a bit of lemon juice to give it an extra kick. To die for!! Note that scallops are like calamari: they have to be cooked quickly so they don’t feel like rubber in your mouth. Some people slice them in half before cooking them. I don’t because they end up being thoroughly cooked before they have enough time to brown on the outside.

Where are the grandmas when you need one?

I often turn to complete strangers at the farmers’ market or supermarket for cooking advice and inspiration :0) I try to target a lady with a bag full of what I think are interesting ingredients. She would be my nana for the day. That would make for a great business idea:… Don’t you think?

The Best of Provence – Part 2: The French Riviera

The sea front in Nice is called “La Croisette”. The name comes from the French verb for passing someone on the street: se croiser. In Cannes, it is called “La Promenade des Anglais” (the English promenade). This comes from the olden days when the British gentry would come to the French riviera while on their European tours or just to escape the cold of Winter. If you watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey (spoiler alert), you know that the Dowager Countess is heading for Cannes as we speak :0) These “promenades” were ideal locations for street photography. From the two girlfriends eating ice-cream on a bench to the German biker covered in tattoos: portrait photography heaven!!

The best of Provence – The South East corner of my French heaven

But let’s talk about what’s really important: THE FOOD. Our two favorite meals in the area were at “La fourchette” in Avignon and “Le bistrot du Paradou” in the village of Paradou. La fourchette had the most exquisite traditional dishes, all cooked to perfection. Escargots, pieds paquets, grenouilles… While this gave us the traditional French dinning experience, the other place was even more fun

An evening to remember

The guests thought the idea of using the stables was quite fun. Remember that episode of Downton Abbey where they had to improvise an indoor picnic because Mrs. Patmore’s oven was broken? The fact that we all had to stay quite close to each other in these quarters helped the evening be a great success. People had to introduce themselves to other guests they didn’t know and wouldn’t have thought of talking to if we had been outside, free to roam around… This was also the perfect setting for me to take portraits. The light wasn’t great, but practice is always good in photography.

The simplest and fastest lamb recipe you’ll ever come across

Peter just started working on his very own vintage Bentley. All he has right now is a chassis, 4 wheels and the engine. I will document the whole process and post the photos on my car website. Peter’s shop is filled with Riley’s and Salmsons and Bentleys and all he plays in there is prewar music. Walking in there is like turning back time…

Of Bretagne, succulent lobsters and shiny new toys…

The food specialties of Bretagne are crêpes, salty caramel, apple cider and seafood. Eating lobster at sunset on the docks of some remote village, overlooking the ocean is one of my favorite things to do in my French heaven!

How your phone can help you become a better photographer

In fact, the worse the tool (within reason of course) the better. Why? Because it forces you to get creative and to focus on the essential: composition and light.

Yes definition/sharpness will be crap. Yes there will be tons of noise on most pictures. So what?

I believe that everyone can benefit from owning a good camera. A DSLR with a good lens if budget allows. But a good photo is a good photo, regardless of the gear you use to take it. Camera phones have their strengths and their weaknesses, but by emphasizing the good and downplaying the bad, one can create magic with them!

Here are some tips that may help you do just that:

The wonders of the Basque Country

The Basque country (Pays Basque) is well known for its hot peppers (piments d’Espelette) and its incredible cheeses (mostly sheep and/or cow). The “piment d’Espelette” is not very strong, but it is extremely flavorful. I use it on cheese, meats, sauces and vinaigrettes as well as in most marinades. The name Espelette comes from the village around which the peppers are grown. Farmers hang them to dry on the façades of their homes. It is very decorative and gives a great authentic feel to the area.

My market is my church! An Insider’s tips on how to navigate a French Farmers’ Market

Most markets (even here or in Italy), are now the target of con artists. These are people who just buy their products in bulk at the supermarket or in large food factories etc. and try to sell them back to you for two, three or even four times the price. The worst ones in France are those who sell olives, “Herbes de Provence” which actually come from Bulgaria, and cheese. To avoid being taken advantage of, my advice is this:

My two cents on portrait photography – 25 tips on portrait photography

OK, I’m certainly no Richard Avedon, but portraits are my favorite thing to shoot. I like to capture the fleeting emotions, the energy, the love, the passion… Hunting for the perfect subject and capturing that one special picture…

I thought I’d share a few ideas with you on the subject. None of this stuff is new (I don’t think), but I hope some of it will be helpful to you…

Amira Willighagen and the red cabbage salad

So, like only she would have the guts to do, Corrine contacted Amira Willighagen’s agent to get her to come down and sing. Amira is a 12 year old opera singer who won Holland’s got talent 2 years ago. Quite the little star in Europe right now!

My BBQ Shrimp recipe in a love letter to America

It’s the Brennan recipe for BBQ shrimp except for the amount of butter, the shallot and the type of beer I use. These variations came from a dear dear friend of mine. We worked together at the Ritz on Canal Street. She was a housekeeper, about 60 years old then, and a TRUE born and bred New Orlean. Her name was Miss Catherine. Did I not promise authenticity?!

Crème Vichyssoise: the French gazpacho – Eat like the Batman!

If potato leek soup wasn’t (even then) anything new, the French Chef of The Ritz-Carlton New York (the original one), woke up one day and decided he would serve it cold. His name was Louis Diat and the year was 1917. Louis was born near the town of Vichy in France. Soup is a feminine word in French “UNE soupe” and since ladies who live in Vichy are called Vichyssoises… there you go :0)

Queen Eleanor – The most powerful woman on the face of the earth

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the ruler of my region of France for part of the middle ages. She was the most powerful woman of her time. Since, in 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine was the most eligible heiress in Europe, she was able to marry the future king of France Louis VII (in a cathedral in Bordeaux actually)….

Something that maybe you didn’t know about France…

The “something that maybe you didn’t know about France” is that, although the modern cars we produce are absolute crap, we used to be number one before the war when it came to luxury cars. The Brits had Rolls and Lagonda, the Americans had Duesenberg. We had Bugatti (yes, FRENCH!), Talbot, Hotchkiss, Delage, Delahaye, Salmson… We even had Facel Vega and Alpine in the 60s!

A lovely Summer tradition of the French countryside

On or around the date of the Summer Solstice, every year, in the French countryside, villagers light up a big fire in a field and dance around it until the last flame has gone. We call this « Fête de la Saint Jean » or « Saint John’s Feast” in reference to Saint John the Baptiste.